How to get a job as a network engineer. Read on to see what skills, qualifications and certifications are required to begin a career as a network engineer, and what the future of the role holds.
As businesses become ever more reliant on IT, managing the secure flow of data across complex networks is vital to their success. And key to this is the network engineer.
So what is the best way to kick-start a career as a network engineer?
The role can vary significantly. It can range from more day-to-day maintenance of small business networks, all the way up to helping architect the cutting-edge hyperscale data centres run by the internet giants such as Facebook or Google.
Most would agree it is a high pressure and at times stressful job, involving a fair bit of fire-fighting to resolve issues, preventing outages that could impact the wider business.
It is a fast-evolving role too. Advances in technology such as software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV), alongside new delivery approaches such as devops, means there are a range of new skills needed to succeed in a career as a network engineer.
"The industry is changing rapidly with the introduction of SDN and NFV, creating exciting opportunities to design network in a more agile and cost-efficient manner," says Brian Menezes, network architect at data centre and network services providers Colt Technology Services.
Consequently, expertise in the role is increasingly sought by IT leaders, says Charlie Grubb, associate director at recruitment firm Robert Half Technology. "Our research with UK corporate CIOs shows that they put networking as one of the top five challenging functions and areas to recruit for."
He adds: "There is a good demand for network engineers at the moment - it is never going to go away because we keep trying to get more data quicker, store more data and be able to access that data more effectively. "
How to get a job as a network engineer: Salary expectations and career progression
There are various ways to start a career as a network engineer. A common route is to begin on a service desk at a corporate firm or organisation, progressing from first line/second line/third line support or engineer roles before specialising in network management network operations.
Joining a consultancy is another path many take.
"Or someone might go through more of an engineering business where you are dealing with products that are already highly integrated into deep technology," says Grubb, "therefore you will get quickly into network engineering and the complexities of how you manage networks." This could mean joining a telecoms firm or even a networking business like Cisco, for example.
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